Fantasy Sports: Positive ROI, Predictive Models and Where to Begin

Jun 8, 2018 · 6 min read

«Fantasy sports? Bingo!»

We asked Oleg Smolerov, sports analyst at Scorum and Scorum Draft’s product owner, to tell about his passion for fantasy sports.

  • How long have you been playing fantasy sports?

I’ve done 5 years of seasonal fantasy, and the last 2 and a half years I’ve been more immersed into daily fantasy. I’ve played around 8 thousand tournaments on a dozen of platforms.

  • What’s the entry fee for a tournament? Do you manage to earn money on it?

There are lots of tournaments and the buy-ins vary greatly: from 1 to 100+ euro. There are also larger tournaments, for example, the entry fee for the European Fantasy Football Championship in December was set at 1000 euro. Up until now I’ve earned over 10K USD and currently getting close to 15K. Hope to hit the mark of 15K during the upcoming FIFA World Cup.

  • Have you calculated your ROI? What is considered to be a good ROI for a fantasy player?

My ROI varies depending on the platform, but it should be around 15%. I tend to spend 300 to 800 euro for each tour of the Premier League.

For the regulars 5% ROI is ok. In general any positive ROI is good. Every fantasy platform has huge commissions around 10%. Usually 1 euro out of 11 euro buy-in goes to the platform. That’s an enormous sum, considering the fact that bookmakers are going for 2% commissions. Therefore if you have positive ROI, it means that you’re 10% better at drafting teams than an average player.

  • How many players with positive ROI are there?

Very few. Commission is the main reason for that. If you’re an ordinary middle and draft okay, not great, but okay teams, in the long run you’ll end up with negative ROI because of the commission. That’s exactly why on Scorum Draft we have a 0 commission. It’ll help the middle players to preserve their bankroll.

Secondly, starting this season there are some real money in the european fantasy that you can make a living on. There are more and more regulars who pay close attention to the games, which makes it harder to win. In order to sustain positive ROI you have to constantly progress and improve your game. Thirdly, lots of players have started to use complex predictive models that cannot be beaten with simple analytics that you get from watching a couple of matches and guessing who are the strong guys.

  • What are these predictive models anyway?

Based on the date from previous matches we can predict how active the player will be in the upcoming games. How often will the players shoot for the goal, do key passes and what are the chances for a clean sheet. By combining this info with platform’s scoring system, you can understand how many fantasy-points is expected from each player of the tour. Then this number is divided by the cost of the player of the platform, and that reflects player’s efficiency for the upcoming tour. A team, made up with these effective players, should bring you victory.

Suchlike algorithms actually do work. In winter I had some fun with a basketball experiment: I took a public predictive model from an american website, superposed it with prices for players at a European fantasy platform and got some very interesting results. I don’t really know anything about basketball, but thanks to this simple algorithm I was able to sustain 21% ROI for 28 tournaments.

Even if you don’t possess profound knowledge in sports, you can still win in fantasy purely using the maths. That’s how many professionals in the US came to success, and some of them, even, have no idea what the players from their teams actually look like.

However, when it comes to the other sports, it gets complicated. In basketball you score lots of points (200+ per game), so it’s easier to estimate all the probabilities. However, football is a low-scoring contest. Despite numerous studies, there haven’t been found a statistical parameter that directly correlates with the result. A team can make 30 shots and allow only 2, but still lose 0–1. That’s the charm of football.

  • Does it mean that football has most favourable conditions for fantasy?

Yes. Football (in the US — soccer) is the most popular sport on the planet, and fantasy will always continue to attract new players. Thanks to its unpredictability.

  • Who will find it interesting to start playing fantasy sports?

Everyone can play fantasy, although it definitely would be way more exciting for those guys who have a soft spot for sports, statistics and gambling. Fantasy is much more complicated than betting, and to figure it out you’ll have to make an effort, but emotions from watching the game will be absolutely different.

To place a bet nowadays is to open an app and make 2 clicks. On the other hand, in fantasy you have to analyze the scoring, evaluate each player, fit in the spending limit … It’s difficult at the start, but when you get immersed into that, you won’t be able to stop. I get a kick out the process of team drafting, making difficult decisions and, of course, winning as the result of my efforts. It feels awesome, and I don’t think I will be able to give up fantasy any time soon.

  • If someone wants to get involved what should they do?

If you want to, you can figure it out very easily. Look into what fantasy-points are assigned for, according to these parameters find players who are supposed to perform well, and put them in a team without excessing cost limits.

In order to progress you have to understand statistics and the value of players. For example, you need to know that crosses is the least effective type of passes, while a through ball is awesome. If a player makes through passes, then it’s very unlikely that they will be left without a bunch of assists.

  • How long will it take to puzzle out the statistics?

Someone can can pick up all the nuances in three months, while others will need a year or more. It all depends on one’s abilities and motivation.

  • What is it in fantasy that attracts you personally?

I like football, statistics and numbers. I like to count probabilities, look for underestimated players and create new strategies. In fantasy you can experiment, draft unusual teams and explore the ways to gain advantage over other fantasy players.

More than anything else I enjoy those moments, when you manage to find a unpopular player who then shines during the tour. There was this one time when a football player hadn’t score or made assists 3 tours in a row, but had hit woodwork 5 times, done a bunch of through balls and overall had been the most active player on the team. Sooner or later, a player like this one will shoot. That is when you and a few of others, who were also smart enough to have that player on their team, will share the bank in that tour.

Not only fantasy incorporates all my knowledge and favourite hobbies, but also earns me good money. Bingo!

  • What sources can be helpful for the newcomers?

RotoGrinders and FantasyFootballScout have tones of statistic data and materials that will help to get into the topic. If you study these websites on regular basis and use the acquired knowledge with your fantasy teams, success will eventually find you.

  • Tell about Scorum Draft. Why is it different from the other platforms?

The main advantage is that we don’t charge any commission. In near future we plan on adding a simple cryptocurrency exchange service with bank cards and adjusting the process of platform adaptation. Also, Scorum Draft has non-standard interface that will become even better.


It’s been over a month since the launch of Scorum Draft — daily fantasy sports platform, where users can play with SCR tokens. Make sure to check it out!


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